Friday, April 9, 2010

Resource Center

The Resource Center is nearing completion. This is my biggest project so far. The floor is now finished and we will start using it in about a week. We have over 1,000 hours of labor and about $600 in this project. The purpose of this building is Community development. It will serve as an office and organizing point for the area Community Based Organization and groups under it such as HIV/AIDS support groups, orphan care, food security, bee keeping, poultry raising and other groups the community decides are important. It will be a place for community meetings, trainings, adult education and development planning and will contain a small library of books, information and reference materials. It will be a focus of development for the community by its physical presence and a place for the planning, training and activities needed for development to take place.

I will soon be starting training workshops in tinsmithing, carpentry and tailoring. We still need some money to finish construction as well as tin sheets, planks, cloth, and miscellaneous supplies.

We also need tools like hammers, saws, planes and chisels as well as a treadle sewing machine which costs about $100. Any donations you can make would be greatly appreciated. These donations will provide capital investment for small income generating businesses in the community.

You can easily contribute by selecting the Donate button at the top of the column to the right. It's safe and easy by credit card or from your bank account and the money goes right to me. Thanks.

Today we are plastering the walls.

First dambo sand is dug and hauled in with wheel barrows or buckets. Dambo sand is a sand and clay mix which is found locally. A small amount of cement is added for more strength.

The plaster is put on the wall and smoothed with wooden floats.

Neftale is plastering around one of the windows.

Lipunga village

This is my village: Lipunga in the Traditional Authority of Mkanda and the District of Mchinji. Here I am with Mr Chitedze in front of his house.

The main road in the center of the village.

Kids are often playing soccer and other games.

The buildings are pretty rough. Most are mud with thatched roofs. There are a few made of home made fired bricks and even fewer with tin roofs. Typically there are 2 to 4 rooms. Cooking and washing dishes are done outside.

This is the primary school on the edge of the village. There are 8 classrooms, 8 teachers and 800 students - do the math. Some classrooms have 2 foot potholes in the floor and the roofs leak.

New PCV's arrive!

It's been a year since I arrived in Malawi with my group of volunteers and here we are welcoming this year's batch at Lilongwe airport.

There are 3 sectors in Malawi: Environment, Health and Education. Three times a year a group arrives for each sector. Mine is environment.

There is a lot of pride and enthusiasm!

The new group of Environment Volunteers.

Kids and Games

There are kids everywhere and when they see me they often shout "Bwanji azungu!" which translates to "How are you white man". They are always asking me to take a photo. The boy on the left has a "cataput" or slingshot. Third from left has a "khasu" or hoe on his shoulder - and somebody forgot their pants.

There is a lot of free time and a common activity is playing "Bao". It's an interesting game of skill. Marbles or stones are moved around the board with the goal of capturing the opponent's.

A girl with a hoe. She has been weeding in the fields.

This was the only time I saw a teeter totter. I have also seen cars made of wire, tops and kites.

Young people hanging out at the borehole. These are students from the primary school.

Cow carts are a common sight. They are used for transporting tobacco, manure, firewood, maize, flour, people and many other things. The cows are not trained. They just hit them with sticks and yell at them until they go in the desired direction.

These students are slashing grass around the soccer field.
A gang of kids in downtown Lipunga!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roads and Fields

During the rainy season, which is just ending, the roads get pretty messy and rutted.
Where ever you go there are people walking and riding bikes.

There are some good views along the way.

To get to town I have to pedal about 2 1/2 hours on roads like these.

The kids like to play in the water.


Tobacco is a big crop in Malawi - the largest source of export income. The plants on the left are tobacco after most of the leaves have been removed. They are harvested from the bottom up as they start to turn yellow and hung in sheds to dry. When dry they are pressed into a bale wrapped in burlap and taken to the auction floor to be sold.
The crop on the right is peanuts - called groundnuts here.
The staple food of Malawi is Maize or corn. The soil is very depleted so if you don't use fertilzer you get something like the left side of this picture. If you apply fertilizer you get a crop like the right side.
More peanuts.
Some lowlands with mountains. My area is about 4,000 feet above sea level.
One day I was surprised to find a small field of rice along the road. It's common in some other parts of Malawi.


These are tobacco plants after most of the leaves have been harvested.
The leaves are tied in small bundles with grass "string" and hung in sheds to dry.

Here is a tobacco drying shed at the back of the field.

Often the drying sheds are around the house compound to protect against theft which is very common. As you can see the sheds are make of local grass and small trees. Everything is tied together with "ludzi" - the inner bark of trees. It makes a very strong rope.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Resource Center update

Here is the Community Resource Center. It is being built with donations from my friends and family in America who are reading this blog - good job! The front wall was totally rebuilt and a new roof installed. Look in previous blogs for more pictures.

It will be used for development planning, community meetings, training, education and entertainment. We hope to get a grant for a solar electrical system, computer, printer, TV and DVD player. There will also be a small library.

That's my bike in front with my water container.

Tearing up the old floor.

More work on the floor.

These women are carrying "dambo sand" to be used for plastering the walls. It is a mixture of sand and clay and is mixed with a little bit of cement.

Women can carry a lot and a long way.

Plastering the walls.

Mixing the plaster.

Leveling . . .

. . . and finishing.

My House

Let's start with the kitchen and my "sink". On the left is a water filter for drinking and cooking water and on the right is water for washing dishes and hands. I have to carry my water about a mile. I use a 20 liter (about 5 gallon) container which I carry on my bike. That's about enough for one day unless I need to wash clothes. When it rains I set out tubs and buckets to catch rainwater.

This is my counter and storage area. In front, under the white pot is my kerosene stove. It has one burner. I use kerosene because when I get home it would take too long to start a wood fire. I have to haul most of this stuff in from the BOMA on my bike. I made the kitchen unit from local wood

This is the living room. I have a small table and chairs where I eat and it's also a storage area for bike, tools and supplies. There is also another room through the door on the right which is used for storage.

My backyard with clothesline and bafa (bathing room) in the corner.

One of my most valued possessions - a solar heated shower. I hang it on a 10 foot pole over my open, outdoor shower stall. The way most people bathe is with a tub of water and a cup. You don't get in the tub, which is small, but scoop the water with the cup and pour it over yourself.

Here is my bafa. . .

. . . and my outhouse. It has a concrete slab inside with a hole in the center and 2 foot-shaped spots to stand on. Never backs up or gets plugged and it's very deep so it will take a while to fill up!

These are my solar panels. They provide 50 watts of power to a car battery inside. I use that to charge my computer and batteries for radio, camera and lights. For lighting I mostly use a camping headlamp so the light is always where I need it and it doesn't use much power. I also have a kerosene lamp which I use occasionally.


Even though it is just little bits of electricity flying through the ether the contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps.